In its early development, this land was nothing more than a crossroads of piney woods and a new track of rail. By the 1890s, settlers were steadily arriving from the Carolinas and in 1897, a settlement was established here at Gretna.
(Turn of the century turpentine operation in Gretna- Photo Courtesy of the
The town was platted in 1905 and in 1908, the land for the school was deeded to the School Board by the Humphrey & Mahaffey Families. This building would serve to teach through Junior High grades until 1935.
Group of students and principal pose for a photo on the school house c. 190?
(Photo courtesy of the Florida Memory Project)
It has since been used as a clinic, community center, Shriner’s Club, and church hall.
[Gadsden County, FL c. early 1900’s]
…or why I don’t share specific location information…
[This once beautiful home was cleared out overnight by scrappers who took every fixture, piece of woodwork and artifact they could salvage. Sumter County, FL c. late 1800’s]
At least twice a week, I am emailed from a friend I-have-not-yet-had-the-pleasure-to-meet about directions to a particular location or how to find forgotten locations in this area or that. Understandably, many are curious and want to see these places for themselves; I felt the same when I first saw images of abandoned places. I immediately wanted to see them for myself; I wanted to take their pictures, to feel their stories, and to see what had been left behind for myself.
But I quickly found, as most of you will if you start this kind of project, that many photographers and historians in this niche are very protective over locations and are often reluctant to share much location information. There are many reasons for this guarded sensibility, but I would like to take a moment to explain my thoughts behind it with those of you who are as compelled by these places as I am.
Over the past 3+ years working on this project, I have seen multiple properties vandalized, looted, and in some cases burned. It breaks my heart to think that someone might be callous enough to destroy a historic property for their own selfish reasons, but I must acknowledge that such unfortunate individuals exist. With nearly 6,000 followers on my main social media outlet (Far Enough Photo on Facebook), I know only a very small percentage of this audience personally and although I am certain that no one reading this now has bad intentions, I simply could not imagine being responsible for the demise of any of these properties by sharing specific location information carelessly. In order to provide necessary context to my stories, I will (almost) always include county and state information but I request that my contacts private message me for any further location specifics in order to protect the (remaining) integrity of these places.
[Rural Florida School- Abandoned and then destroyed by vandals and squatters. Alachua County, Fl c. 1930’s]
[One of numerous pieces of graffiti found inside an abandoned South Carolina asylum; construction on this building began before the Civil War]
On top of all of these concerns, I have to consider the privacy of the private property owners. Despite these structures being abandoned, all of the property I photograph is still (in one way or another) privately owned. I hope everyone can understand why a property owner might not want thousands of strangers knowing that their great-grandmothers historic home is abandoned and the address/GPS locations to it. Besides the concerns about theft and vandalism, these owners have to be concerned with liability, squatters and rural neighbors who wouldn’t appreciate the increased traffic.
[Abandoned home now mostly destroyed and boarded after locals began loitering and vandalizing the interior. Bradford County, FL c. late 1800’s]
[I guess I have a different idea of when it is appropriate to use foul language. Graffiti on a long forgotten Antebellum home in North Florida c. 1840’s]
Each of these sites were at some point important to the people that built them. These places represented their desire to establish roots in a new region; their need to build their connection with the land they lived on and their hopes for the future. It is my job to find them, to uncover their stories and to share them with you, but just as important is my job to keep these places protected from those who might not be able to appreciate the significance of them as you and I can.
[Graffiti on the interior wall of an historic abandoned Methodist Church. Ben Hill County, GA c. 1870’s]
[The interior* wall of the auditorium of this school. The roof was burned by vagrants and 90% of the remaining building is covered in graffiti. Duval County, FL c. early 1900’s]
[On first visit to this home in 2010, all windows were in tact and the interior was in decent shape; today all windows have been shattered, the inside has been covered in spray paint, every fixture has been stolen and a small fire has jeopardized the rear of the structure. Alachua County, FL c. 1930’s]
Instead of providing GPS locations, addresses and satellite images, I would rather inspire each of you to get out and find these places for yourselves. I started this project without even ONE specific location and within a month I had found 10 within my county. Because I cannot be everywhere at once and there is so much to see, I hope to encourage each of you to get out to your respective areas and to explore the incredible history that you will find in your own backyards.
Please check back later in the week for my blog post on how to find forgotten spots in your own area!
In the early 1920’s, the people of Half Moon gathered to build this one room school house. They had plans to make education more accessible to the children of their small rural community. They had survived a World War and were looking to the future.
Imagine the changes this community faced just a few short years later when the global economy collapsed and depression took hold.
The records of Half Moon are sparse from this point on and eventually the town disappears. This school sat there until 1991 when it was relocated to its present site and restored. Nothing remains now of the town, but this building stands as a reminder of the intrepid souls who made plans, worked, built and established families. They, like us, couldn’t have known what curveballs life had coming.
[Alachua County, FL]
If you would like to visit the Half Moon School, it has been moved to the Morningside Nature Center in East Gainesville and is available for public visits during park hours (exterior only).
If you are lucky enough to have travelled the great cities of the South, you may have seen Haint Blue detail work on a mansion in Charleston, a Haint Blue door in the New Orleans French Quarter or maybe a Haint Blue Porch or two in Savannah. In this region, there is no color more historic and as long-lived in the buildings of the South. This colors’ past is so intertwined into Southern culture that one might see it plastered on every other mansion in Savannah and also on the window trim of an abandoned rural homestead in Florida.
The history of the shade (or shades, actually) began with the Gullah (Geechee) people who were slaves and slave-descendants in the coastal Southeastern United States. Primarily from Western Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, etc) they worked on coastal rice and Sea Island cotton plantations. They are known for the preservation of their distinct cultural beliefs, traditions and stories. The Gullah’s believe that haints (or haunts) are malevolent and vengeful spirits trapped in between the world of the living and dead. These haints cannot cross water however, so, they created a rustic paint blend that resembled the color of water to confuse these spirits. This color has always encompassed a wide range of colors in between blue and green and was originally made of lime, milk, dirt and whatever pigments were available (usually indigo). The paint mixture was then smeared on to windows, doors and entryways to prevent bad spirits from entering.
Interesting to note is that the use of lime in these original milk paint formulas unintentionally acted as insect repellant.
As time passed, Haint Blue found its way to larger and more stately homes throughout the Southeast. Partly because it is believed that the color will confuse insects with the sky and deter them from building nests.
In contemporary times, the color has seen a revival amongst historic preservationists and has found some popularity in Northeastern architecture, ensuring that even as their culture dwindles, the Gullah footprint can be seen across the region in so many different styles of architecture.
(Perry School- Built circa 1885; unused since 1930)
As I prepare to move across the country to Napa, there are a list of to-do’s, to-see’s and to-photograph than I will ever be able to finish. Undeterred though, I am trudging along crossing things off what has become my ‘Florida Bucket-list.’ Admittedly, I have had a love-hate relationship with the Sunshine State over the past 15 years. But as I look back and survey my personal journey with this place, I am keenly aware of how fortunate I am to be from a place that has nurtured me in so many ways and provided so many opportunities to my growth, as a photographer and as a person. But, I digress.
Before I can say goodbye to this hot, humid and wonderfully peculiar state, there are a few places I will be visiting over my last weekend here. A few beautiful, significant and forgotten places. I cannot explain how I have found myself so attached and entangled in places that before 3 years ago, had nothing to do with me. These structures and their incredibly interesting histories have drawn me closer to my roots as a historian and created a photographer in the process.
I have a vested interest in their preservation and only wish I had access to the resources required to ensure their preservation. These are truly natural history museums in their truest form. No red velvet ropes. No fancy carpets. No admission fee. It pains me to think of the what their fates might be. Although even I struggle to think of a solution or purpose for structures like these in present-day. Almost each of them is isolated in rural Florida; an aspect of their histories which have both saved them from vagrants and vandals, but also removed them from the scope of most preservationists.
(Trinity Methodist Church- constructed in 1890)
I imagine it might be the last time these eyes will glance upon the school and church I will be visiting this weekend. For now, I will be continually grateful that I have been able to capture such significant pieces of history and architecture and share them with you.
More photos of both buildings, as well as more of historic Florida can be seen here.
Public School Number Four stands awkwardly in Downtown Jacksonville, oddly masked by the ramps and interstates which have been constructed around her, almost as if the building didn’t stand there. Built in 1917, the school was first known as Public School Number Four and then renamed Annie Lytle Elementary. Once a grand building with a large auditorium, beautiful columns and impressive staircases, the buildings location in Jacksonville eventually led to its closure by the School Board in the 1960s. Eventually, the building was used as office space and then condemned in 1971.
Sitting in disuse for more than 40 years, the building has fallen victim to vandals, vagrants, criminals and arsonists. In January 2012, part of the school caught fire (again) destroying what was left of the auditorium (see below).
The auditorium, pre-2012 fire
Numerous urban legends surround this school, with tales of murderous custodians, student deaths and cult activity. The only thing I saw evidence of was substance abuse in the form of Natural Light beer cans strewn everywhere. Unfortunately, the school has become a regular hotel for the homeless of Jacksonville.
It has sadly also become the canvas for every local artist* who wants to practice his or her pentograms and bubble lettering.
Public School Number Four was given a historic designation in 2000, in part to save it from being demolished to make way for new apartments. Since then, many other proposals to redevelopment the property have been offered, but none has stuck. In my visit, it was obvious that any attempts to restore this once fine structure would be difficult. With its unfortunate placement in an undesirable area and two large interstates blocking its grand facade, making a case for this crime trap might be impossible at this point.
My photos of Public School Number Four were featured on AbandonedFl’s website. Check it out!
Citrus groves, sugar mills and packing plants once stood all around North Central Florida, offering work to Florida frontiersmen. These workers founded communities, built churches and opened schools for a good part of the late 1800s.
Railroad routes were built up around the citrus industry and post offices were erected. If you wanted to be a citrus farmer, this was the place to be. Unfortunately, two back to back freezes in the winter of 1894 and 1896 devastated area crops. The damage was so irreparable that most farmers left after the first freeze of 1894 and moved further south to the present-day Orlando area. The footprint they left on the area can still be seen, if you’re looking for it.
For the handful of cities in this area, the story is eerily similar. The freezes forced the citrus grove to close. The railroad was redirected and eventually the post office shut its doors. Some of these towns have no remains to speak of but many of them hold on proudly to a few dilapidated structures as time ticks on.
As I wander the back roads of rural Florida, I need only find a rusted tin roof, an old railroad track or an abandoned barn to find remnants of these old communities. I imagine a simpler, slower time. A small group of people trying to make it, and their eventual evacuation of the roots they fostered and the structures they built.
To see more photos of Forgotten Florida, check out my flickr photo set:
St. Augustine has long been a favorite of mine to visit. I can remember visits as a kid to the fort (Castillo de San Marcos) with my mom and having picnics on the sprawling green lawns that surround the fortress and moat. There is something magical about walking down a coquina street that is over 500 years old that struck me as a child on my many trips to The Nation’s Oldest City. The city holds the same appeal and magic that it did on my first trip there 20 years ago.
Of course now as an adult, I am able to enjoy all that the city has to offer by way of food and libation too. Any trip I take to St. Augustine requires a stop at The Columbia Restaurant, an Old City staple since 1983. If you go, please order the 1905 salad and Black Bean Soup. You will thank me for this. There are some wonderful newer restaurants on the scene that have been welcomed discoveries like Spy Sushi, Collage and Bistro de Leon. For great atmosphere, a glorious Port list and a different-from-every-other-bar experience, please check out Stogies Jazz Club. This is a cigar bar, but if smoking isn’t your thing, there is a nice sized courtyard to sit and enjoy. Bonus points for live jazz on the weekends!
When I take a break from eating my way through St. Augustine, I most enjoy wandering the cobblestone and coquina streets to people watch and look for photo opportunities- which are everywhere. Flagler College, the Lightner Museum, Castillo de San Marcos and too many beautiful old churches to name are just blocks from each other. The streets of Old Town St. Augustine are lined with quaint Bed & Breakfasts and more candy makers and bakers than I can resist. The history, food and quirky cross-section of people you’ll find here make St. Augustine the most charming city in the state of Florida!